Mike J. Allred - Events of September 11, 2001

Here are some promotional pictures of the Marriott WTC.
Note: the text below was my message sent to family and friends on the evening of 9/12/2001. Photos, links and images were added at a later date.

Friends and family, this is what happened to me on 9/11/2001. I am typing this from my trusty (and dusty) laptop in Philadelphia, PA, awaiting a chance to catch a flight back to my home in Las Vegas. The short version of the story: I'm OK. But what a day it was! Feel free to forward this to anyone who I've forgotten, or anybody who is interested in what happened in downtown New York City yesterday.

Thanks for your concern,

Mike Allred

# awaken

I awoke at about 8:20 or so, quite late but I was sleeping in because of staying up late to surf the web and design a new database on my laptop. Not abnormal for me, I usually need to show up at my consulting gig at 9:00 and I felt fortunate to be so close to the World Financial Center. It takes me only 5 minutes to get to the World Financial Center across the West Street walkway. I got up quickly and jumped into the shower. Time to get rolling and start the day.

I was about to get out of the shower and continue preparing for work when I felt the first aircraft hit. It felt like cannon fire, like a low frequency thud from the structure of the building. The bathtub carried the force of the impact into my feet. My first instinct was that a bomb had detonated below. I felt the first nuances of fear enter my awareness. I turned off the shower immediately. After a few moments I went to the window to see what was going on outside. My heart leapt when I peered down 17 floors to see debris scattered across the street. I saw some of the Marriott bell captains sprinting across the street to escape the building, and small but growing crowds of evacuees across the street at the World Financial Center. No pretense of an orderly response to the situation whatsoever. This was panic. This was not good.

# decision

What to do? I worried that a bomb had detonated near the ground floor of the Marriott World Trade Center. If I rushed down the stairwell into an inferno, or a gaping blast area, I would surely perish. I needed more information. The fire alarm was now beeping, and I was frantically preparing to flee the building. I turned on the television to recon a good way to get out of the building. The news showed a horrific image of one of the World Trade Center towers split open by the impact of an aircraft. I knew now that I must leave my room, and the building immediately. If necessary I could come back and get my stuff when the coast was clear.

# flight

I cobbled together my laptop case, with my trusty computer and headed out of the door. This was no time to worry if my shirt was wrinkled or hair messed. I figured this would be a "no tie" day. My next shock was seeing the empty hallways, the disarray left by the housekeeping staff who had fled in much haste. I briskly strode to the elevator area to see if I could get a ride to the bottom. No luck, they were out of service. I looked out the large window to see which Tower had been hit, so I could go to the stairwell opposite of the impact, just in case. There was nothing but fluttering debris and chaos. No way to tell which tower had been hit. I decided to go to the south stairwell and descend the building immediately.

On the way down I met a hotel employee with a radio, he told me to continue quickly to the bottom. Another guest popped into the stairwell and asked what was going on. I told him a plane had hit the WTC, and it was time to get out immediately. I sped down 17 floors and there was a Marriott employee urging calm, ushering me through a doorway onto the conference room level. As I was hurrying down the spiral staircase to the ground level, passing the panoramic wall of glass windows, I saw the chaos outside close hand. Debris in the street, firefighters, sirens, policemen and terrified people. It appeared the rescue workers in the Marriott wanted people to remain in the lobby area rather than venturing outside and getting hit by falling debris. Then the second plane hit. Another massive thud reverberated throughout the building, and now even the police were voicing no objections to leaving the building. People were yelling to open the door, let them out. We rushed southward to the Bull Run restaurant and out into the falling debris. The cops were screaming for us to run. RUN! GO! I was already in a full sprint diagonally across West Street, then south down the walkway adjacent to Battery Park city. DON'T LOOK BACK, the officers had screamed. I had no desire to see whatever they were referring to. There were people crying, hysterical everywhere. I finally paused about a half mile away to look up and see smoke and roiling flames pouring from gashes in both towers. My guts wrenched when I saw someone fall from very high on the building. I had never seen a person die. I felt a heavy, disheartening sense of panic and revulsion. KEEP GOING, screamed an officer, YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE. I turned and hurried on.

Here are the pics from the lady's camera, the view being from Battery Park looking uptown.
I felt some semblance of safety when I reached the northernmost edge of Battery Park, and I paused to catch my breath and consider my next move. I was essentially at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, and the fear that the towers would topple was very real. At least it would probably not fall on me here, but there was the possibility of domino effect taking down other buildings. There were people talking about how they saw the planes hit, and what kind of planes they were. A trader showed his bloodied hand where falling glass had cut him. He said he was lucky, he left to have a cigarette and bailed out of the WTC plaza when he saw the plane hit the building. A lady showed a digital picture on her camera of the second plane banking in for impact, and an interested member of the crowd left to go to his office with her to send the picture to a news agency (later seen on yahoo.com). A tourist asked me what the name of the building was. There was a certain sense of post-traumatic rubbernecking. Some light joking. Some stared silently at the towering infernos. Some cried.

Things were mostly calm on the ground, and I did not see any more injuries. People were spreading rumors very quickly. There was a third plane coming. The pentagon had been hit. I was infuriated that I had no access to real information, no way to plan the next move. I wondered if this was the beginning of war, if there would be a military attack on the area. I gathered what information I could. It appeared that the buildings were heavily damaged, but perhaps the firefighters would get things under control and life could go on. F-15 fighter jets rumbled overhead, and police helicopters hovered near the towers, giving creedence to the idea that there was more trouble to come. I was thinking about where I would go, how I would get out of Battery Park and get home to Las Vegas. I had some time to study the damage on the buildings closely. The south tower appeared to be, by far the most heavily damaged. There were a few floors in the impact area that were burning bright red, with heavy smoke issuing out. The most startling factor to me was the southeast corner of the building. The WTC survived the '93 bombing because the integral strength of the building was in it's exterior walls. I saw that the plane had destroyed one of the corners, and much of the exterior wall structure. It looked like it could collapse at any minute.

# collapse

My room window (1715) is circled (or very close to it).
It was very surreal to see the south WTC tower give way at the impact point, with the sound of faraway metal and concrete shattering and falling. It was like a movie, but it put me immediately into evacuation mode. A mushroom cloud erupted at the crack, and the top of the building began to descend. It looked like so many other building implosions I had seen, except this one was unplanned and about to happen a little over a half mile away. There was a sudden chaotic stampede, screaming, terror. I turned and ran with abandon to get as far away from the towers as possible. I looked back quickly and saw the expected black and grey cloud of choking dust coming quickly my way. I pulled my shirt over my nose and continued running until I reached the Staten Island Ferry building. It was like a deep, dark gray choking fog had enveloped the area. Dust coated everything. Some people opened the back of a linen truck, and I grabbed a dirty dishrag to use as a mask.

# escape

After that it was waiting and hoping. The dust cleared somewhat, the police came by on a boat and told us the Staten Island Ferry would take us to Staten Island. The second tower fell, and I retreated briefly to an area behind a restaurant at the southwest corner of Manhattan. Eventually the dust started to clear again, and I boarded the Staten Island Ferry. Safe at last. I walked around Staten Island trying to find transportation to the mainland until the early afternoon. Finally I caught a bus to the Staten Island side of the Bayonne Bridge, and hiked over the bridge to Bayonne, New Jersey. A policeman searched my laptop case before allowing me to cross the bridge. Hiking across the bridge, I met a nice lady named Pat originally from Colombia who offered to drive me to a local hotel once her husband was able to reach her in his car. We took a bus to Journal Square, Jersey City. Then took the PATH train to Newark. I tried to get a room at the Hilton next to Penn Station in Newark, but it was already full. I made a quick decision and took an Amtrak train to Philadelphia. Anywhere, as long as it wasn't in the New York City area.

# reflection

The Marriott WTC just minutes before the North Tower fell and killed the photographer taking this picture.
As I mentioned, I'm in Philadelphia, trying to figure out a way to get home. I've got plenty of money, no worries. Everything is ok. Just waiting for the airports to open, or an open seat on a train. I hope everyone else is well. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Here is a map of lower manhattan. The path I took in leaving the WTC is in red. Some points are numbered:

  1. One of the buildings in the World Financial Center, where I worked.
  2. The Marriott WTC
  3. The area near the ferry station, where I took a boat to Staten Island.
  4. Approximately where I was when the towers collapsed.